Remember Proposition 19? The 2010 California ballot initiative would have legalized marijuana for anyone of drinking age and allowed local governments to regulate pot sales themselves. The initiative failed with support from only 46% of voters, but it was heavily bankrolled by Oaksterdam University's millionaire founder Richard Lee — which some legalization advocates are saying provoked yesterday's raid by federal authorities from the IRS, DEA and U.S. Marshals service.
Along with the main Oaksterdam building at 16th and Broadway in Oakland, four other properties connected to Lee were also raided by the Feds Monday morning, including Coffeeshop Blue Sky (one of the first dispensaries licensed by the City of Oakland) and Lee's own apartment near Lake Merritt. According to the Chronicle those federal agents arrived at his door with, "a battering ram, a sledgehammer, power saws and a locksmith."
Even a day after the raid, a spokeswoman from the IRS has yet to confirm anything about the investigation other than that they were serving a federal search warrant, which remains sealed for the time being. Advocates from the Drug Policy Alliance, on the other hand, are now drawing connections between yesterday's raid and Lee's support for the legalization of marijuana. As Drug Policy Alliance executive director Ethan Nadelmann told LA Weekly:
I don't know whether this morning's raid represents some form of 'payback' for Prop 19. But I suspect and hope that the principal impact of such heavy-handed police actions by federal authorities will be to increase support for the broader legalization of marijuana, especially among Republicans and conservatives who care strongly about states' rights.
Back in Oakland, Stephen DeAngelo, co-founder of Harborside Health Clinic which turns three times as much profits as Oakland's other three dispensaries combined and paid out $3 million in taxes last year, told the Chronicle the IRS involvement was an attempt to "tax us out of existence."
Although demonstrators who showed up to protest the raids were seen openly smoking joints and bongs in the face of federal authorities, only two were arrested during yesterday's activities.